“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
My two young adult nephews are going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my parish in August. It has me reminiscing about my mission experiences in Haiti and Guatemala. Mostly, it has me reflecting on the formation I received so I can share that with them.
I learned the most profound lesson before going to Haiti when I was nineteen. The session was about this scripture passage: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Sometimes, as Americans, we can be pompous know-it-alls. We think that who we are, what we do, and how we do it is “the best.” The point of the session was to undo all of that. We were going to be guests in a foreign land, a place whose history and customs we had never experienced before. We had to remove our shoes as an outward sign of humility and respect for the host country.
We all know the expression that “we need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to truly understand what they are going through.” But when we actually remove our shoes, when the soles of our feet touch the same dust and soil that our hosts journey on, we come to understand them in a much deeper way. We realize that there is a whole new set of circumstances and rules to play by. Our ways just do not apply. When we achieve this way of thinking, all preconceived notions, superiority, and judgement fall to the wayside. We are finally gifted with right perspective. Suddenly, we awaken to the beauty in their terrain, in their eyes, and in their hearts. It is only then that we begin to see and experience the holy.
During my formation as a Franciscan missionary in Guatemala, a lot of the focus was on return mission. The idea was that once we recognized the holy in our mission sites, we were going to be forever changed for the better. Therefore, after our three years in the field, our mission work would continue as we brought that change back with us, incorporating it into our lives, and sharing it with others State-side.
With my current assignment of motherhood, I see a direct correlation. I am invited and hosted time and time again by a multitude of moms. But what I have forgotten is to apply my mission formation to my current situation. I need to approach each and every mom, and their homes, like I did Haiti and Guatemala: with my shoes off. I need to recognize that my framework does not apply to any of them, nor how any one of them parents. All judgement needs to fall to the wayside.
Each and every mom has her way of doing things, ways that are completely beautiful in the realm of her own family, her domain. Once I can view each mom from that perspective, I will then awaken to the holy in every single one of them.
I am so proud of my two nephews Christian and Brendon! If you could please pray for them, I would really appreciate it. It will be your prayers that help them to recognize the holy in all whom they meet in the Dominican Republic.
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